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Environment & Science

Bison Transferred To Fort Peck Quarantine Facility

Bison move through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park on October 14, 2015.
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Bison move through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park on October 14, 2015.

Eleven bull bison quarantined in a federal facility near Yellowstone National Park were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation on June 24. There, they’ll complete the final phase of a program to make sure they are disease free before being sent out to start or boost herds across the U.S.

This is the fourth relocation of Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation since February 2019 under the current, interagency quarantine program.

The 11 bull bison transferred Wednesday will spend the next year in the tribes’ $600,000 quarantine facility where they’ll be tested every six months for brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can spread between bison, elk and cattle if they come into contact with afterbirth tissues and fluids.

The disease can cause infertility and miscarriages, which are financial threats to cattle ranchers.

In 1995, the state of Montana sued the U.S. Park Service for allowing bison to leave Yellowstone and enter state land. An interagency team developed several management strategies to keep the herds from getting too large, including hunting bison that migrate out of the park and capturing them to ship to slaughter.

The quarantine program provides an alternative ending for the U.S.’s national mammal. The facility at Fort Peck increases the capacity to get more bison through the program.

A Yellowstone spokesperson told YPR Wednesday that the relocation of the 11 bull bison was coordinated between the State of Montana, the Fort Peck tribes and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 11 bull bison were quarantined at the facility managed by APHIS near Corwin Springs.

The organization Defenders of Wildlife said in a press release it helped with the logistical costs of hauling the bison more than 400 miles north.

Bison that complete the quarantine program can be transferred to other tribes and conservation organizations to start or boost herds across the U.S.